Magna promises firewalls between Opel, supply ops

Fri Sep 11, 2009 2:19am EDT
 
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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Canadian automotive supplier Magna International promised on Friday to ringfence its Opel operations once it takes control of the former General Motors carmaking unit.

"As soon as the takeover is successfully completed, Magna will erect appropriate firewalls to guarantee a complete separation of its current automotive supplier business and Opel, so that confidential customer information remains completely protected," Magna founder and Chairman Frank Stronach said in a statement.

GM's board has agreed to sell Magna and its Russian partner Sberbank a 55 percent stake in Opel in a deal that is supposed to close by the end of November.

Some Magna customers including Volkswagen have expressed concern about the potential conflict of interest the deal poses as Magna continues to supply Opel rivals.

GM agreed to sell the majority stake in Opel to the group led by Magna after months of fraught negotiations that had weighed on the European unit and its 50,000 workers.

Talks on Opel, control of which GM is giving up as part of a U.S. government-orchestrated restructuring, had dragged on for months, fuelling anger among the carmaker's staff, half of whom are in Germany.

Under the Magna deal, Detroit-based GM will retain a 35 percent stake in Opel. Magna and its Russian partner, state-owned bank Sberbank, will have 27.5 percent apiece, and workers the remaining 10 percent.

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Hans Peters)